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Was The Italian Invasion Of France Really A Tactical Draw?

Alpini

New Member
Perhaps a controversial question, but one that I think needs serious consideration. Most, if not all, historians consider the Battle of the Alps a French victory and, indeed, strategically it was (or at least an Italian failure). But, a study of the actual fighting, the conditions involved and the terrain over which it was fought, may lead to suggest that the Italians achieved rather more than they've been given credit for. Regardless of the amount of territory which they overran, a not inconsiderable 832km2 either before the Armistice, the Italians had been hampered from the beginning by French demolitions of transportation and communication links before June 21st, and the region was always going to favour the defenders (even the Germans stated that they would've had trouble launching an offensive under those conditions and barriers). The Italian fort of Mont Chaberton silenced the French fort on Fort de l'Olive, and Italian troops pushed forward in several places, occupying enemy land. Even when the Alpini and other troops were stopped in their tracks by French defences in the Alps further north, they were taking steps to outflank these, and may well have done so after June 25th. Italian troops did well to gain what territory they did along the southern coast too, as it was almost like advancing on a road 'funnel', as the terrain again did not favour the attackers. Menton was fought bitterly over, and street fighting again will mostly favour the defenders, as they are already in their positions. So, the capture of that town was no mean feat. True, the Italians outnumbered the defenders, but even at 2 to 1, that is not necessarily an advantage in such battle conditions. So, bearing in mind these and other details (nowhere were the attackers pushed back into Italy), I'm inclined to think that, tactically, the brief campaign could be seen to be a draw, or a stalemate, and not ignominious for Italian arms as has been recorded in military history.
It-Fra Alps2.jpg

Italian troops advancing in Menton
 

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jwsleser

Administrator
Staff member
I certainly agree that the RE did better than what is often presented. The counter is whether the withdrawal of the bulk of the French Alpine troops in September 1939 made those small successes possible.

The Italian lacked a plan. What they had was hastily improvised and the RE didn't have a means to overcome the French fortifications. What they hoped to do was infiltrate the defensive system and attack the forts from the rear. The withdrawal of the Alpine units made this possible, but still not likely in a brief period of time. The attack was spread over the entire front with no main effort identified or supported. The RA was basically ineffective.

The Italian fanti were left to deal with the situation that their leadership had placed them within.
 

Alpini

New Member
Yes, I think that's a fair assessment. There was no concentrated point of pressure from the attackers, and the Italians, not so much picked up the rifle by the tip of the bayonet, but tried to hammer on granite with a chisel.
 
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